Nissan Leaf and BMW i3 now have an all-electric rival from South Korea
This is our first chance to drive the all-electric Hyundai Ioniq on UK roads. If that name sounds familiar, it’s because we’ve already tried the hybrid version. With a plug-in hybrid to follow, the Ioniq is a key part of Hyundai’s plan to have 22 ‘green’ cars in its range by 2020.
Underneath all three versions is the same platform that underpins the Kia Niro. There’s plenty of high- strength steel to help rigidity, along with aluminium panels and other componentry to reduce weight.
Unlike the Niro and the two hybrid Ioniqs, the all-electric version does without independent multi-link rear suspension, despite costing nearly £29,000 before any government grant. Instead, it has a torsion beam rear axle, which is more compact and enables Hyundai to shoehorn in a larger battery pack without sacrificing too much boot space.
The lithium ion cells have enough juice to give the Ioniq a maximum potential range of 174 miles. Like official fuel economy figures, we’d take that number with a pinch of salt. Even so, you’re left with enough range (about 130 miles) to make all but the longest commute viable.
“With 118bhp, the Electric is the least powerful Ioniq, yet it is also the quickest”
With 118bhp, the Electric is the least powerful Ioniq, yet it is also the quickest. A substantial 2181b ft of torque from rest and no pauses to change gear result in a 0-62mph time of 9-9sec. At urban speeds, though, the Ioniq feels even quicker than that.
However, its instant torque can overwhelm the economy-biased tyres. In the wet, the traction control cuts in hard if you try to accelerate quickly. Turn it off and the front wheels will spin all the way to 35mph.
Not that performance is really a selling point of the Ioniq. More important is the smooth power delivery and complete absence of vibration from under the bonnet.
As with other electric cars, it’s far more serene than a diesel or petrol- engined car. Even so, plenty of road roar is transmitted through the floor and there’s noticeable wind noise at speed.
The brakes take some getting used to as well. The initial response is very sharp, but it feels like you need to push the pedal a long way further to get any meaningful stopping power.
You can alter how much the car decelerates when you lift off by using what look like gearshift paddles behind the steering wheel. The Ioniq starts with fairly weak regenerative braking, but this can be ramped up to slow the car faster and increase the amount of energy that goes back into the battery pack.
Hyundai suggests that the Ioniq Electric should offer decent driving dynamics. The truth is that although it isn’t bad, it’s not going to set pulses racing. The steering has reasonable weight to it, but it’s vague around the straight-ahead and never conveys what the front wheels are doing.
There’s not a great deal of body roll, but it doesn’t take much to get the nose of the Ionic running wide on its low-resistance tyres. Pitch the car into a corner harder and you can tell the weight balance of the car is more even than that of a front-engined, front-wheel-drive hatch, though.
Even so, this is a car that’s much happier being driven well within its limits. With this in mind, we would have liked more compliance from the suspension at urban speeds. It’s not uncomfortable, but it is on the firm side when dealing with crumbling blacktop. Things do settle down at motorway speeds, though.
Inside, the dashboard looks almost identical to a Hyundai Tucson’s. Up front, you get plenty of soft-touch materials on the upper portion of the dashboard and doors and harder materials underneath. Everything is nicely textured and the controls work with precision. As for the rear, it’s roomy enough for six-footers and the boot is competitive in size, if shallow.
There’s plenty of storage at the base of the centre stack, a good-sized glovebox and a wireless charging slot for your phone. There is no gear selector lever, just buttons for Park, Neutral, Drive and Reverse.
Ioniq Electrics get copper trim inside, which is a pleasant change from piano black. You also get an 8.0in colour touchscreen infotainment system that’s responsive and easy to use. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are standard, too.
Even allowing for the £4500 government grant that you’ll almost certainly get when buying an Ioniq Electric, you still really have to want a battery-powered car to choose it. An internal combustion-engined rival will be cheaper to buy and, in many cases, better to drive.
It’s impossible to ignore the advantages of electric power, though. There’s no doubting the tax savings (especially for business users) and it’ll be much cheaper to fuel and service. Factor in the Ioniq’s competitive range and we’d say it’s well worth considering against rivals such as the Nissan Leaf and BMW i3.
Hyundai Ioniq Electric
It may not be particulary exciting, but the Ioniq Electric is a decent addition to the UK’s growing EV class
Price: £24,495 (after £4500 gov’t grant)
Engine: Electric motor
Torque: 218 lb ft
Gearbox: Single-speed reduction gear
Kerb weight: 1420kg
Top speed: 103mph
CO2/tax band: 0g/km, 7%
Rivals: Nissan Leaf, BMW i3